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These are mostly runaways who live or work on the street and have no contact with their families. Some of these children a lucky handful, are being helped drag themselves off the city’s streets and become part of society, by the Azad Foundation, a non-governmental organization. Former Karachi street boy, Ali is one of several, who have been helped back on his feet by one of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) backed organisation’s child centres. Ali left his family because of physical abuse. He arrived at an Azad Foundation child centre aged 14. Now18 years old, he works for the foundation, encouraging other street children to use its centres. "When I go to the street to find children,” said Ali. "I talk to them and suggest that they come to the centre with me. I tell them they will find there a doctor and some education,” he told UNICEF. "I tell them my own story and show them that now I am living a good life," said Ali. "I can understand the difficulties they have. Some are afraid or unsure of my intentions." "When I came to the centre, I was nothing," Ali added. "I learned many things, to read and write and to do embroidery. Most important, I learned to help others who are living in the street. My dream is to become a motivator and a good human being."
There are 1.2 million children on the streets of Pakistan's major cities, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission, out of which 30,000 homeless children are in Karachi. About 73 per cent of girls working and living on street in Karachi are often victims of physical and psychological violence, 40 per cent take drugs while 80 per cent of them have never been to school. And most street working and living girls don’t know about HIV/Aids, revealed a study by the Azad Foundation. "The streets are full of dangers for the children," said Azad Foundation Psychologist, Waseen Fatima. "The use of drugs is common and most suffer sexual abuse or harassment."
Last week in Karachi, about 1,500 lawyers signed a campaign for a Child Protection Bill, reported The News, Pakistan’s English newspaper. President of the Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF), Rana Asif Habib said: “Due to the absence of the bill, the street children are the worst sufferers. They cannot go to the police station to register cases against the perpetrators since a guardian is needed which these children don’t have. Also, there are no shelter homes available for these children and therefore thousands of children are roaming aimlessly on the streets of the country, indulging in wrong doings,” Habib explained.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children